04/23/06 — Agencies prepare for increasingly older Wayne

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Agencies prepare for increasingly older Wayne

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on April 23, 2006 2:04 AM

Wayne County is getting older, rapidly, -- and county agencies are getting ready now to make sure services are in place to meet the needs of the increasingly elderly population.

Officials said the 2000 census shows that 29,973, or 26.5 percent, of the county's total population is age 50 or older. And that number will only increase in the future, they say.

Community leaders and representatives from agencies that handle the needs of the elderly gathered recently at WAGES to brainstorm for the future.

The idea, they said, is to keep seniors in their own homes as long as possible.

WAGES Nutrition Program Advisory Council and the Wayne County Council on Aging sponsored the event.

Adult day care and increased opportunities for community involvement for seniors were among the issues discussed.

Eastern Carolina Council Area Agency on Aging administrator Tonya Cedars of New Bern said the needs of older adults are different than they were 10 years ago.

She said North Carolina is one of seven states that has received grant funding to make a plan to provide services for seniors. Once the county has come up with its plan, then the state will develop a comprehensive plan. The process should take about three years, she said.

Gloria Flowers with Services on Aging said Baby Boomers will not be willing to accept the same services as generations past.

"They want to continue to be active," she said. "They are intellectual and very computer literate. We want seniors to continue to stay in Wayne County and be active."

She said the plan will help seniors remain independent and stay out of nursing homes.

And the seniors themselves will not be the only ones affected.

Over the next five years, a third of the workforce population in the United States, will be involved in caring for their elderly parents, Ms. Flowers said.

She said daycare for the elderly will be a definite need soon to allow their children to continue working while taking care of their aging parents.

Ms. Flowers said the community could provide a better picture of what services will be needed and suggested contacting Wayne County's fire departments to see if they would provide space to hold local forums.

Yvonne McLamb with Services on Aging said that as the face of the county changes, so will its needs.

"It's been a long time since we've had any kind of plan for aging needs and services," she said. "We want the public to take the ball and run with it when it comes to a plan for the aging. The people of Wayne County need to do this, and we'll be their guide."

She said the county has to evaluate what programs it already has available for seniors and what needs to be added.

Among the programs that are already in place include Meals on Wheels, program director Brownie Doss said.

She said there are several congregate nutrition sites where seniors can go to eat, do an activity and receive health information. Although Meals on Wheels routes are being done in Fremont, Eureka, Belfast, Pikeville, Saulston, New Hope, Elroy, Dudley, Mount Olive, Mar Mac and Goldsboro, there are still areas in the county where the meals are not being delivered due to funding and a lack of volunteers, Ms. Doss said.

She said there are 200 people on a waiting list for Meals on Wheels.

June Monk, Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion director, said there are 21 volunteer stations for these two programs. She also said there are 14 people on the waiting list for the Senior Companion program and 40 on the waiting list for the Foster Grandparent program. She said the average age of these volunteers is 78.

The two programs together are keeping 200 seniors active and out of nursing homes. "They enjoy what they do and they are keeping healthy," she said. "But I don't know how much longer we can continue the programs. We have asked for money from everywhere."

Another program at WAGES for seniors is medication management. About 466 people have used the program, which has dispensed $1.2 million in medications.

Department of Social Services representative Judy Pelt said her agency is providing adult protective services, guardianship and Medicaid programs. She said there are 10 people on the waiting list for services.

Ms. McLamb said Services on Aging serves more than 212 seniors with its in-home aid program, and that there are another 95 to 100 on the waiting list.

The agency also provides transportation to and from nutrition sites, doctors, the hospital, dialysis and physical therapy.

There are also congregate nutrition sites and various activities at the agency's center throughout the week.

"Their well-being is being improved just by their getting out of the house and socializing," Ms. McLamb said.

Services on Aging provides legal services, college classes, health programs and more.

Those attending agreed that even with all these services for seniors, more is needed.

"What better way to honor our parents than coming together as a city and a county to have the very best place for aging people that we can have," Ms. Flowers said. "Our ultimate goal is to get people to be able to stay at home."

A task force is being formed to come up with a plan and several public forums will be held at various locations.